By Adva Saldinger –

The Carrell Group, a Little River-based construction company, has won a national award for a house it built using insulated concrete forms, an energy-efficient, weather-resistant material that seems to be gaining popularity in South Carolina.

Insulated concrete forms, or ICFs, are interlocking styrofoam frames supported by steel and filled with concrete that are used to construct walls of homes and are an alternative to traditional stick-built homes.

The Carrell Group, which until recently was known as Carrell Homes, won its award in the unlimited residential category from ICF Builder magazine. The company’s winning house, which was built in Florence, is more than 18,000 square feet and scored well above the competition when judged on a number of factors, including the complexity of the project, site conditions, and how well the project promotes insulated concrete forms, visibility, size and sustainability.

“It was the type of project that moved the industry forward,” said Clark Ricks, the editor of ICF Builder magazine. “One of the biggest issues that the ICF industry is facing is just a lack of exposure. A lot of people don’t recognize that it’s possible to build with ICFs or the advantages that ICFs offer … that [this house] is making people aware that ICFs are out there is a major step forward.”

Ricks said that the product is growing in popularity, especially in areas where energy costs and durability are important to homeowners. About 5 percent of the total residential market in South Carolina is built with ICFs, most of which are custom homes, he said.

The Carrell Group has been building with ICFs for about 10 years, and has built between 50 and 60 homes with the technique since then. The company built its first home with ICFs in Grande Dunes, in part because the material works well with a stucco finish.

In the past few years, Carrell Homes has also built its ICF homes to meet the “fortified for safer living” certification from the Institute for Business & Home Safety. The certification requires that homes be engineered a certain way and use special materials to be strong enough to withstand storms. To qualify, a property is inspected by a third party throughout the building process.

Of the 49 homes that have received the designation in South Carolina, 45 are in Myrtle Beach, according to the institute.

The Carrell Group talks to all of the potential homeowners it meets about building with ICF and getting the certification, said Bruce Carrell, the owner.

“It is a little more expensive to build the house to start with, but ultimately you would save money on insurance and you wouldn’t have a loss or as significant of a loss in a storm,” he said. “We believe going forward that it will become almost the norm, especially if we get another big hurricane.

“Building a house with ICFs costs about 5 percent more than building a house with traditional materials, Carrell said, adding that the upfront cost can be offset by long-term savings.

Homeowners also can qualify for tax credits and most get insurance discounts of between 20 percent and 25 percent.

“It is definitely a growing trend,” said Allison Dean Love, an external relations consultant with the Institute for Business & Home Safety. “It’s about having a better building design, and it’s a wonderful thing to do for a lot of different reasons.

“The institute this year started a certification program for existing homes and will launch a certification for businesses soon.

“During hurricane season certainly … is the time for people to be thinking about this, because not only do you get an insurance discount, but it protects your property and your family,” she said.

Contact ADVA SALDINGER at 626-0317.

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